In the mid-1990s Evelyn Vaughn wrote a quartet of books featuring witch heroines for Silhouette’s late Shadows line. During the subsequent series romance embargo on paranormal tales, she published several historicals under her real name, Yvonne Jocks. Now that paranormal stories are slowly making a comeback in the series ranks, she’s back with a interesting new book about a subject that isn’t used too much in romances: Zombies.
Zack Lorenzo was once a Chicago cop until the mysterious death of his wife and the subsequent disappearance of her body opened his eyes to the dark forces at work in the world. He became a paranormal investigator, tracking down reports of strange occurrences while seeking the truth about his wife’s death. The latest report of a mysteriously disappearing body brings him to West Texas and leads him to Sheriff Josephine James.
Years ago, while working as a miner, Jo came face-to-face with the living dead. She’s spent years trying to pretend the experience wasn’t real. Now Zack’s in her life, warning of a growing danger she can’t ignore. An evil force is gathering in the area, complete with ominous signs of dark things to come. To find whose responsible, Zack and Jo find themselves investigating the different kinds of mysticism practiced by various groups in the area.
Needless to say, this is not your typical series romance, even with the law enforcement heroes and Texas setting. This is probably the darkest Silhouette release I’ve read since the end of the Shadows line, with a very creepy tone. It has more of a mainstream feel. There are lengthy discussions about different belief systems and types of magic. It’s very much plot-driven. While it wasn’t a complete success, it does win major points for doing something new.
Jo is a terrific heroine. Any woman who can stomp on the head of a rattlesnake and stick a knife through its body without batting an eye is fine by me. She’s tough and resilient, but has enough vulnerability to keep her relatable.
Zack is a little more annoying. His positive side is often blunted by the sexist streak he exhibits. He’s is one of those “old world” type of guys who believes women are meant to stay at home and be protected. Why, his wife would have been fine if she’d stayed at home where she belonged instead of wanting to go to college for some of that book learnin’. Some of the instances where he tries to protect Jo, and one moment in particular where he blames her for getting in a situation when he would have ended up in the same position, were aggravating. It’s not as though she needs it; a woman who worked as a miner and then became a sheriff isn’t exactly a delicate flower. Of course this is the conflict between them and Zack grows somewhat by the end, but his overblown machismo and a certain lack of dimension make him a difficult hero to warm up to.
The mystery is also a disappointment, because there’s no way to deduce who the ultimate villain is. At one point Zack and Jo interview a couple of people, each of whom practice a different kind of mysticism. I guess that makes them the suspects, but they appear so briefly as to be instantly forgettable. When the villain was revealed in the end, my reaction was “Who?” The final confrontation is still the best part of the book, one of those juicy supernatural showdowns literally between good and evil where love conquers all.
Buried Secrets is an intriguing book, but not one I can fully recommend. It certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you’re starved for something different in the world of series romance, this one offers an interesting change of pace.